Lessons Learned From My Worst Race Ever


Oh, yeah. IRONMAN Texas 2015 was going to be my race. The game was on.

With a fire in my belly, I selected IM Texas because the timing worked perfectly for maximizing training time. December until May was the off-season for professional travel, allowing me to do nothing but work and train without the time constraints of being on the road. Additionally, my spouse lived eight hours away at the time, freeing my life of annoying little distractions like actual human interaction. I cleared my schedule of all social engagements for four months leading up to my big race.

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In my mind, training was good. Anything that distracted or diverted me from training was bad. It was that simple.

My routine consisted of early arrival at the office, lunch hours on the treadmill or in the gym working on strength and flexibility, and evenings and weekends entirely consumed by swimming, biking and running. I chose to forgo group rides and social runs in order to stick to my plan exactly as written.

When not working or training, I was thinking about, preparing for, recovering from or analyzing my training.

Texas was to be my third IRONMAN, following Cozumel in 2013 and Louisville in 2014. Finishing in the top 10 of my age group at both, I set my IRONMAN personal record of 11 hours and 32 minutes in Mexico. Disappointment with a slower result in Kentucky fueled the fire and contributed to my obsession to excel at Texas.

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If you've noticed the accompanying finish line photo, you've probably already guessed that IRONMAN Texas was not the pinnacle of my amateur, age group triathlon career. While I had a head filled with grandiose notions of success marked by an improved finish time and age group standing, Texas instead delivered a life lesson best summarized by that old Rolling Stones song: "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Six weeks before Texas, I strained my gastrocnemius, forcing me to rest for several weeks and nix any long runs more than 13 miles. Two weeks before the race, my new running shoes, albeit a half size too small, arrived in the mail. FedEx delivered the replacement pair (the correct size but not broken in) as I was pulling out of my driveway to travel to Houston.

We've all heard the saying "never try anything new on race day." First lesson learned: Never wear brand new running shoes to run a marathon in an IRONMAN race.

For the first four miles my feet hurt. Then my feet went numb.

Alternating my run with a walk, I made it to the finish line. Mustering any reserves, I ran down the finisher's chute and threw my hands in the air for my big finish. "Don't look down at your watch," I thought. "Head up for the camera!"

Then I tripped and fell, with Gu Chomps and electrolyte tabs scattering in all directions, in front of 1,000 spectators and on live coverage.

The game was on, and I lost. big time.

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